Dr. Carl Edwin Lindgren, D.Ed.
Fellow, College of Preceptors (Essex)
While growing up in the 1950s, children were intrigued by Mexican Jumping Beans, Hula Hoops and magnets. Although the Hula Hoop and jumping beans are passé, kids of all ages are still mystified by magnets= secret powers. Old fashioned red horseshoe magnets, plastic alphabet and even ‘fridgies’ have the power to attract metal, repel other magnets and cause compass needles to spin. Often thought of as playthings, magnets have serious uses — in industry, in science and in medicine. While the most familiar medical application is diagnostic, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), magnetic therapy is healing bones, strengthening muscles, increasing circulation and alleviating pain.
The word magnetism, according to Sir David Brewster’s Treatise on Magnetism derives from the Greek and refers to properties of the loadstones or native iron magnets. Known for centuries, this ore was, according to legend, named for Magnes, a young shepherd who first observed the phenomena of magnetic attraction in the hills of Mount Ida. Historians, however, feel the word magnet came from Magnesia, a region in Lydia, where lodestone was discovered several centuries before Christ. Loadstone deposits, however, have been mined, studied and used for their curative powers for millennia. According to Buryl Payne’s work, The Body Magnetic, the first known mining of magnetic ore was in Africa, over 100,000 years old.
Many theories have been postulated regarding the occult (secret) powers of loadstone deposits. Ancient philosophers, in Greece and elsewhere, speculated that the ore contained a soul and that by combining the soul of the ore with man’s body and soul, physical cures could be exacted. Therefore, for centuries, man has used magnet’s esoteric power for alleviating muscle spasms, gout, scarring, pain, and illness. Magnets, used in conjunction with ointments, food preparations and water, are reported by many as producing wondrous cures.
Magnetic Therapy and Research Through the Ages
One of the first major works on magnets and magnetic fields was written during the 16th century by William Gilbert (1540-1603). Gilbert’s book, De Magnete Magneticisque Corporibus (1600), states even the smallest piece of magnet or loadstone contains a magnetic field of positive and negative poles. His greatest discovery, however, was that the earth itself is a giant magnet with magnetic poles (North and South), axis and equator. Over the next 300 years, other works would substantiate magnets’ physical properties of. It was not, however, until Franz Anton Mesmer (1733-1815) that an investigation of magnetism’s use in healing was conducted. Mesmer, although later discredited by the French Academy of Science, believed that magnets (and later, animal magnetism) could cure diseased bodies. It seems, however, that of the many scientists who investigated Mesmer, most were biased and unwilling or unable to see the potentials of magnetic power.
Little further scientific research was conducted until the 20th Century. During the 1930s several physical and biological scientists became interested in magnets and their supposed healing qualities. In a 1934 article in Arch. exper. Zellforschg, Julia Lengyel states when living tissue (plant or animal) is brought in contact with a magnetic field, there are marked increases in cell growth and proliferation. Lengyel, also noted a changes in differentiation and in structural cell formation (atypical) resulting in irregular cells and, in some cases, gigantic multi-nuclear structures.
Research by Mario Lenzi, presented in the September 1940 journal Radiology, reported several preliminary findings relating to magnetic field intensity, and variations in biological effects of alternating (pulsating) magnetic fields and constant ones. Lenzi also restates much of the research conducted by R. Balli, L. Hermann, L. Errera, T. Huzella and J. Lengyel of the 1930s. This paper concerned the grafting of neoplastic material (tumors) on to health white mice. In Lenzi’s research, using 1,500-1,700 gauss magnets (electromagnets of 120 v., 1.5-2 amp. DC), evidence showed that (when using an alternating magnetic field) the grafted tumor material’s growth was delayed and to a degree limited.
Since the 1930s experiments have been conducted by Drs. N. Nakagawa and J. Arichi of Japan, Dr. W. D. Mühlbauer and Prof. M. F. Barnothy, A. R. Davis, W. C. Rawles and Dr. A. Roy of America. These scientists and physicians have investigated magnetic healing and treated thousands of individuals for chronic back and shoulder pain, scars, wounds, burns, rheumatism and arthritis.
Magnets in Alternative Medicine
Today, many companies sell and distribute static-magnetic field devices (magnets) which range from simple stick on magnetic patches, shoe insoles, necklaces, bracelets, magnet foil to entire body wraps, and magnetic pillows. These items produce magnetic fields of between 1-100 mT. The Connecticut based Body MagneticsJ also handle magnetic vests, magnetic hand exercise equipment and multi-soft water magnets. Magnetic pads are also being used with continued frequency. According to a research project (1990), conducted in part by Dr. Kazuo Shimodaira, a physician of obstetrics and gynecology at Tokyo Communications Hospital, in a double blind test of 431 patients, (i.e. 375 subjects using magnet pads, consisting of 104 magnets with a 750-950 gauss strength, and 56 without magnetic padding), More than seventy percent of the patients obtained positive results from using the magnetized pad.
As with similar devices manufactured in the 1800s, advertising claims range from relieving stiffness and arthritis, improving circulation, relieving pain, to eliminating scarring and healing muscle sprains. Several companies, including MagneSystemsJ of Los Angeles sell a headband which they suggest may help in alleviating stress. Such devices typically consist of an adhesive patch (either circular or square) holding a barium-ferrite magnet at its center. Other manufacturing groups, produce magnet bed devices which produce a pulsed magnetic field of 1-30 Hz. One such company, PsychoPhysics Lab of Boulder Colorado, distributes low strength magnetic bed pads manufactured in Japan and magnetic helmets made of mu metal. These magnetic beds, once trendy during the Victorian Era, are once again in vogue. These and countless other products are being advertised for experimental use only. Many users, however, enthusiastically attest to magnetic devices (ex. electro magnetic, permanent or magnetic strips) therapeutic value.
Some foreign firms have developed more radical equipment. Among these are Magnet & Halso of Sweden which has designed a full body pulse coil magnetic field treatment center. This product is rather expensive and at present cannot be sold in the United States.
Deviating from the “traditional” mono-pole concept (positive on one side, negative on the other), MagneSystemsJ has devised, after ten years of research and testing, a product they believe will help in eliminating minor aches and pains. Applied directly to the body, the magnet, sandwiched between two outer layers, is a barium ferrite material magnetized in a special alternating bi-polar design. The inner layer is made of a soft cotton material. The outer layer is gold foil which deflects and distributes naturally occurring body heat back into the pain site. This configuration, according to its designers, increases localized heat a full 4E Centigrade. According to the compamy’s literature, evidence of heat increase and distribution was demonstrated in clinical thermographic test measurements. The company’s Wrap ‘N GoJ products are available for back, knee, leg, shoulder and elbow use.
Relating to using magnets as therapeutic tools, an article in Veterinary and Comparative Orthopaedics and Traumatology, reports a significant positive effect on vascular damage. The paper, entitled “A Scintigraphic Investigation of Magnetic Field Therapy on the Equine Third Metacarpus,” states “magnetic field therapy using permanent magnets is theorized to have an effect on local circulation.” It further states that permanent magnets “could be beneficial in treatment of injured distal limbs of performance horses.” The authors extrapolated this form of treatment may also be beneficial in treating (further tests are warranted) soft tissue trauma, fracture healing, inflammation and periostitis.
NorfieldsJ of California offers racehorse owners and trainers drug free therapy using magnetic health care products. Their technique, based on research comparable to the above study, furnishes veterinarians viable co-treatments or at times alternatives to traditional therapy (i.e. steroids, blistering, anti-inflammatory agents, etc.). This treatment when used in conjunction with heat and cold therapy produces fast recovery time, cost effectiveness and ease of using for most common equine injuries. This line of products, like the MagneSystemsJ is based on a bi-polar magnet field principle not a mono-polar design. According to the designers of NorfieldsJ products:
Blood carries charged ion particles … [which] when blood passes through a magnetic field, the charged ion particles . . . separate [known as the Hall Effect]. The particles, once separated, adhere to different sides of the blood vessels. The positively charged particles migrate to the negative side and the negative particles to the positive side of the vessels. As blood flows through the alternative poles, the charged particles migrate to opposite sides of the blood vessels. The Alternating Bi-Polar pattern forces the ion particles into a stage of continuous movement. The persistent movement of these charged ion particles produces thermal energy … [thereby increasing blood flow rate, increased oxygen and nutrients, and the removal of toxins].
Pain, therefore, whether in animals or humans is reduced because of a combination of the Hall effect and a reduction of stress on the body’s autonomic nervous system. Further, healing, according to other studies, occur due to an increase production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
Finding Magnetic North
Before beginning therapy, the therapist first determines the north and south poles of the magnet he/she intends to use. Each pole of the magnet, according to magnetic therapists, produces a variety of physiological effects. Using the wrong side (pole) of the magnet can produce negative and occasionally harmful effects.
There are two ways of determining magnetic attraction. The first technique consists of bringing an unknown unipole magnet (differing from horseshoe or bipolar magnet, the unipole magnet is positively polarized on one side while the other side is negative) in contact with a compass. The compass is placed on a non-metal table and allowed to freely point north. Since like poles repel, and unlike attract, the south pole of the magnet always points toward the North Pole. Slowly, bring a magnet (bar or disc) in contact with the compass’ north side (marked N) . If the north side of the magnet is facing the compass, the magnetic point of the compass needle (the one pointing toward the North Pole) is attracted toward the magnet. If the magnet’s pole is south, the compass needle’s magnetic point will be repelled pointing 1801 in the opposite direction. The second method of determining a disc magnet’s polarity is to suspend it from a string (non-magnet) allowing it to hang freely. The south side of the magnet will spin to face the North Pole.
As previously noted, different magnetic poles have different and opposing physiological effects. For infections, caused by bacteria, parasites, fungi and viruses, the north pole of the magnet should always be used. The north pole is also helpful in reducing inflammation and swelling, stopping pain, mental acuity, reducing fat deposits and promoting cellular healing. More rarely used, south pole magnetic energy increases a variety of physiological effects including: bacteria and plant growth wakefulness, inflammation, pain, infection, and changes in animal behavior.
Biomagnetic Handbook, by William H. Philpott, M.D. and Sharon Taplin reviews magnetic energy effects on living tissue. According to the authors, most human illness is positive or south pole induced. In fact, many physicians, including the late noted physician, writer and Rosicrucian Dr. Paschal Beverly Randolph (1825-75) stressed the importance of sleeping with one’s head aligned north. According to Randolph, pointing the head in this direction allows a greater degree of negative magnetic energy is stored during the night. Accumulation of negative field particles aid in restoring mental and physical energy, reducing anxiety and depression and activating pineal gland (third eye) manufacture of melatonin.
Holger Hannemann states, in his work Magnet Therapy a barium-ferrite magnet of about one-fourth inch in diameter with a magnet flow of 600 gauss (a strength measurement used in conjunction with magnetic distance) can be used for treating pain. This magnet has a lift power of about two pounds. The magnet is held in place, over the injury or painful area, with a hypo-allergenic adhesive tape. The magnet is left on for several days, then removed for 48 hours and reapplied. The magnet can be left on during baths and showers, with an occasional reapplication of tape.
Magnets come in various sizes, shapes and strengths (rated in gauss units). For use in healing, the therapist may use plastiform magnetic strips (available in craft stores), ceramic magnets or the stronger neodymium magnet. As noted, some magnets can be applied using an adhesive. Other more powerful permanent magnets may be affixed as free-standing therapeutic instruments. These devices, producing 2000-10,000 of gauss power (a 25 pound lift power magnet is rated at 2,000 gauss), need not come in direct contact with skin or test object. Magnets can be used or worn anytime of the day or night. They can be sewn into a piece of clothing, fixed in place by a bandage, elastic wrap or used in bedding . According to the Biomagnetic Handbook, magnetic energy performs four essential services: heals, alkalinizes, oxygenates, and normalizes. Magnets also if used correctly, produce no side-effects. Perhaps, the only precaution against using magnets relate to pregnancy and individuals using pacemakers. Magnets should not be used within five inches of a pacemaker and while pregnant, women shouldn’t use magnets on the abdomen. They should also avoid using any magnet over 600 gauss units.
After having determined north and south polarity, gauss strength, and the correct polarity to use for the particular disorder, you are now ready to use magnetic therapy, The Biomagnetic Handbook, lists over 100 disorders for which magnets may be useful. Although each case may differ, a general rule is that north pole magnetic energy increases oxygen, reduces infections, relieves pain and reduces inflammation. Southern field energy produces wakefulness and at times stressful states. It can also, according to some researchers, increase pain, inflammation, reduce healing and augment depression and anxiety.
Magnetic therapy should be used not as an alternative to traditional medicine but rather in conjunction with standard medical practice. For injury, the magnet should be placed directly on the site of the pain or soreness. If direct pressure of the magnet causes additional pain or swelling, it can be used adjacent to the site. An alternative is using more powerful magnets requiring no direct contact. Acupuncture points may also be utilized. Magnetic therapy for other physiological and psychological conditions, is treatment similar to that utilized of injuries. For psychological conditions magnets may be placed on the cranium or along the spinal region. Since strong magnets will penetrate into the muscular, glandular, circulatory and bony areas, one type of general therapy works for most situations. Magnets start working immediately, yet their beneficial effects are not noticeable for several days. Generally, permanent magnets should be used for about 20 minutes, twice a day. Plastiform magnetic strips and ceramic magnets may be use for up to twelve hours a day. If, after a week, benefits are not obtained, magnetic treatments may not be the treatment of choice.
The dual-polarity concept, which according to many provides faster acting relief of pain employs a multi-polar magnet layout similar to a checkerboard with positive and negative design. Most of the design and production of biomagnetic products, including the checkerboard and alternating pole magnetic elements, are done by Norso Biomagnetics, located in Raleigh, North Carolina. The company’s president, James J. Souder
The use of magnets in treating a variety of illnesses and injuries have, in one form or another, been used for thousands of years. Their therapeutic value has been shown countless times in working with a variety of physiological conditions. As stated, each individual has his/her own unique psychological and physiological states. What works for one individual may not be beneficial to another. The same holds true for an array of traditional medical techniques and drugs. It is, however, important that magnets be considered as an alternative or conjunctive treatment method.